City Blogger: Darryl Webster recalls a chance meeting on a stadium tour - Manchester City FC

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city blogger
Season 2013/14

City Blogger: Together since 2008

  • 10 April 2014 10:53
  • Posted by @darrylwebster

Weddings and their after parties are such wonderful affairs; those closest to you coming together, many meeting for the first time, colliding on the dance floor with complete disregard for age and dancing ability.

My sister and I first met Chris Nield in the winter of 2008 when the now social media director at City, was then a young and engaging stadium tour guide. There was no big ownership yet, no trophies in our recent memories, and City were very much still, well — City. Joining my sister and I as stadium tourists that day were a husband and wife from Australia and… well that was it actually.

It is safe to say I knew Chris Nield was a musician from the moment I met him and it wasn’t long into the tour before the, “How many people can the City of Manchester Stadium hold?” questions turned to, “Which sort of music are you listening to?” and “What does your band sound like?”

And then there we were last summer, at the occasion of my sister’s wedding, six years down the road from our tour of what we now affectionately call, the Etihad. Six years had passed but it felt more like twenty, such is the quality of our friendship, and as Chris and I stood drinking Peroni, watching worlds collide on the dance floor, wondering aloud why “Get Lucky” was being played for an eleventh time, we laughed knowingly at the realization my sister was in full control of the music. With every swig of lager another fond memory was recalled; riding the Maid of the Mist into Niagara Falls, pints with Chris’s dad Ian, the two Nields teaching me how to properly get over a Mancunian hangover — it involves Heineken — and the time we formed a band and performed a show together in my hometown of Toronto.

Eventually the lager, and likely a shot or two, led to where all conversations go on nights as rare and special as these: to the topic of our hopes and dreams. Earlier that season I had written a piece for Manchester City’s matchday programme about our supporters’ club here in Toronto and, ever since then, had not stopped wondering what other clubs around the world might be like. What was their story? How did they get started? Were they mostly Mancunian ex-pats or had City caught on to the point where there are entire legions of foreign Blues? Which songs do they sing? What is watching a game at three in the morning like and which sort of pubs in what kind of country allow for this? I felt an insatiable need to find out, to travel to these places, to meet those people, and to write a book about the entire experience.

We downed one more Peroni and staggered over to my sister’s exclusive “after-after” party. There I decided it was time to share with Chris and his fiancé Sophie — Sophie being an accomplished author herself — my crazy idea.

“I want to do a season-long world tour of Manchester City supporter clubs! And I want to write a book about it!” I asserted (slurred).

The idea once uttered, sounded so far-flung, so impossible, that had either friend questioned it, then surely; watching a famous Derby win in Chicago, a midnight kick-off in Hong Kong, a white-knuckled landing at the world’s most dangerous airport, or learning to swear in Icelandic, would never have happened to me.

An idea is always at its most vulnerable in that brief moment after your voice has given it life and the ears that first hear ambitious words are arguably the most important. Chris and Sophie’s ears didn’t question and they didn’t think it sounded impossible. They encouraged, they supported, and they loved the idea.  And so these things did happen. I did watch the derby from a pub called The Globe in Chicago. I watched City defeat Stoke in the wee hours of a Sunday morning at Maya Bar in the Wan Chai district of Hong Kong. I landed safely — convinced for a few moments I wouldn’t — at RAF Gibraltar. And thanks to a group of childhood friends from Búland Street in Reykjavik, I can now confidently shout a few football-related obscenities in Icelandic.

Pride In Travel (https://www.facebook.com/PrideInTravel) is a book I am greatly looking forward to finishing, to releasing, and to sharing with you, my fellow Blues.

But not nearly as much as I am looking forward to June, and another wedding, this time between a fellow writer and a dear friend I met on a simple stadium tour, one that would change my life forever.

darryl and chris

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